£17 Billion Wasted on Unnecessary Face-to-Face Business Meetings

3 min read
Polycom has announced results from a ‘Congested Lives’ research study of over 1,200 businesses employees in the UK, indicating that unnecessary face-to-face meetings cost UK businesses £17 billion annually. Additionally the findings of the survey, conducted by YouGov, showed office workers waste 23 days on average each year travelling to and from appointments.

The research shows that two-thirds (67%) of office professionals across the UK travel at least once a week for work-related meetings, and that an overwhelming majority (82%) who have travelled to meetings in the last year believed many of these meetings were unnecessary and could have been accomplished over the phone.

• Nearly a quarter (23%) of those surveyed believe 1-2 hours of their time could be saved each week by not attending off-site meetings, with one in five (21%) saying 3-4 hours of their time could be saved per week and one in ten (11%) believing 5-6 hours could be saved

• Over one half (57%) of people who travel for business say they are less productive in their job as a result

• The vast majority of respondents (88%) of people leaving the office for meetings weekly are board-level executives, followed closely by senior managers or directors (76%)

• 50% of professionals have to plan their work schedule around external meetings, and believe meetings impact the speed at which their company can make business decisions

• 48% say they travel more on business than they did five years ago

• Office workers in London, Yorkshire and The Humber and East Midlands (70%) travel the most for out-of-office meetings and only 53% of office workers in the North East travel for meetings

• Those working as business, management and professional consultants travel the most to off-site meetings (83%). Those working in the retail sector travel the least (46%)

“By relying on physical face to face meetings, the study found a large proportion of the UK’s office-based employees are wasting valuable time,” said Steve Leyland, Managing Director for EMEA, Polycom. “The impact of all of these out of office meetings isn’t just influencing productivity, job satisfaction and personal stress, but is also contributing significantly to the UK’s carbon emissions.”

Like an earlier Equal Opportunities Commission which found a 20 percent increase in productivity when people worked smarter, the Congested Lives study also indicates businesses could save valuable time and money by adopting simple steps to help employees work smarter.

With the survey finding that travelling to meetings by car is the most popular (67%) form of transport, businesses should look to use public transport or alternative conferencing technologies whenever possible. Whilst convenient, cars are one of the least efficient and environmentally friendly modes of transport. Road transport accounts for 25% of total UK emissions of carbon dioxide and traffic has increased across the UK by 17.1% over the past 10 years, meaning businesses are wasting valuable employee time as well as working against the government’s UK Climate Change Programme.

Launched in May 2006, Work Wise UK ( is an initiative backed by the CBI and TUC, encouraging the widespread adoption of flexible, at home, mobile and remote working, in an effort to increase business productivity, reduce travel times and congestion, and improve the health of the workforce. It is working towards the long-term aim of having at least half the population working "smarter" within five years.

Phil Flaxton, chief executive of Work Wise UK, said: “The UK has not only one of the longest working weeks but the longest commute times in Europe. The social impact of work is considerable. The stress and health cost, as well as the impact on family life of these long hours, is huge. Changing working practices and working smarter is the only solution, enabling people to work more productively and at the same time improve their work-life balance by spending less time at work and travelling and more time at home. This workplace revolution will ultimately be on the same scale as the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, and will have the same profound effect upon our lives.”

“Polycom agrees with the Work Wise UK campaign to help get the UK to work smarter within three years ,” added Leyland. “UK businesses need to start working more flexibly and creatively through alternative audio and video conferencing. While they will never entirely replace physical meetings, these easy to use and very life-like technologies save time, raise staff efficiency and productivity levels, and save money – all while benefiting our environment.”